Characters/Pairing: Brittany House/Jake Hannigan
Prompt: 2. Don't ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to.
Word Count: 1105
Summary: I'll still try to find my place.
Author's Notes: Title and summary are both swiped from the song by Breaking Benjamin, which I love so dearly. Written for the stagesoflove painfic challenge; set in the Heaven Will Be Waiting AU, where Jake and Brittany are engaged in an affair while still colleagues.
Jake Hannigan takes slow, deep breaths, trying to calm his nerves. It's not helping. He clenches and unclenches his fists. Still not really working. Because he can still hear the sound of Brittany House -- his lover of two months and not to mention, his boss -- sobbing through his office wall.
She isn't just crying. No, she's full-out losing it. He knows that she went into her office twenty minutes ago, locked the door, and hasn't been seen since. He can hear the sniffling and the wailing that seems never to end, and it's really starting to piss him off. Finally, Jake makes his decision, tossing his pen to his desk angrily, before he shoves his chair back and gets to his feet. She needs to get a grip, and she needs to do it now. It's not that he's not upset that two of their agents have just been killed, but this is ridiculous, in his eyes.
He doesn't bother asking her to open the door, just takes it in with his shoulder, listening to it slam against the opposite wall. She looks up, and when she sees that it's him, the look is somewhere between confusion and annoyance. Not that their mixing business with pleasure helps the confusion.
Jake doesn't think about that now. He merely folds his arms across his chest and looks at her. "Brittany, let it go. They're dead and there's nothing we can do about it."
Brittany just stares at him.
"You're annoying the hell out of me," he informs her matter-of-factly, his tone even. "I can hear you in my office. I can't damn well concentrate. Take a deep breath and let it go."
Now she's giving him a narrow-eyed incensed look, her anger thinly veiled. Jake doesn't mind the anger; he'd rather have her angry. Angry, he knows how to deal with. Anger is what passes for normal. He almost relishes the snappish incredulity in her voice when she says, "I'm not allowed to mourn for my agents because I'm disturbing you? God, Jake, I knew you were an insensitive ass but I didn't think..."
"You're not mourning." He cuts her off sharply, coming to stand in front of her, palms flat on her desk, eyes boring into hers. He knows how to push her buttons after so long of breathing the same air and damned if he's going to pass up that chance now, when he has something to say that matters. "You're belaboring the fact that you screwed up. That you were in charge when they died. You're feeling sorry for yourself and everybody, you're not mourning."
"Shut up, Jake."
"Make me." He shakes his head. "You know how this job works, Brittany. You want to see the best and we don't. We see the worst. We lose agents. People die. You have to move on or more people will die when you do screw up."
"Don't tell me I didn't screw up!" she snaps, getting to her feet. "I'm in charge of this fucking office, and they were my responsibility!"
"Our responsibility!" Jake snaps back without missing a beat. "You're not the only one with command authority, Brittany. They were my agents too, they're my agents more than yours, I've known them a hell of a lot longer than you have. So don't tell me you're the only one who gets to bear the cross on this one, because it fucking hurts me, too. But neither of us pulled the goddamn trigger!"
"Does it matter!"
"Yes, it matters!" He's letting her have it now, venting everything that has nothing to do with her and everything to do with him and them, and he won't apologize for it, because he never apologizes for anything when it comes to her. He doesn't know who he's more angry at, and he doesn't really care, but at least he's got something to be angry about. Something to care about.
She taught him that.
That fact snaps in his brain and he takes another deep breath, throat already raw from yelling, not having to look to know the whole office is probably staring at them. He goes quiet because he doesn't want the whole office to hear what he says next.
"It matters because it means we can sleep tonight."
Brittany exhales, looking up into his eyes. The fight has drained from her bones, too, easily switched on and off between them, the way it always has been. She can see the fatigue and the disappointment in him. She's seeing too much of herself in him, but she'll never admit it. "What if it had been you?" she asks him quietly. "If you'd died, wouldn't you want me to feel something for it?"
Jake swallows. That's dangerous territory. That's getting into meaning and caring and love, and he doesn't think that's what this is, if it will ever be that. It's not supposed to last that long. It's not supposed to get that deep. They're meant for hate, not love.
Then again, none of this was ever supposed to happen.
"I'd want you to feel something," he says softly, "but I wouldn't want you to be kept awake over me."
His voice sharpens again as he adds, as if the whole moment means nothing, "If you're asking if I'm going to cry over your funeral, you've got another thing coming."
She studies his face. His eyes tell her it means something. She wants to comfort him, to do anything, but she can't with the office door still wide open. If anyone knew they were involved, everything would go down in flames. They'd both lose their jobs. They would be outed to the world and they don't want anyone to know that they, of all people, will be the ones sitting up tonight, in the same bed, staring at the same wall, wondering why two perfectly good colleagues had to die.
"I just need a couple moments to get a grip," she murmurs.
He nods and steps back from her desk, turning on his heel. "If you're going to survive this job, you have to stop treating everything as the end of the fucking world," he tells her firmly, and he means it as he strides out of her office, slamming the door behind him. He doesn't let it all wash over him until he's back in the safety and privacy of his own office. Only then does he think about the guilt and the pain and the idea that one of them might be next.
He knows it wouldn't have made him so angry if it didn't matter.